Sheehan's radical views little noted

Despite heavy coverage, nation's press strangely reluctant to report all she says

August 27, 2005

by David Kopel

Cindy Sheehan claims the media are "a propaganda tool for the government." A New York Posteditorial (Aug. 16) argued that Sheehan's statement was self-evidently false, given the overwhelming and almost exclusively positive media attention paid to her in the last several weeks. But in a broader sense, Sheehan has a point: Almost all the news stories and columns in Denver dailies, like the vast majority of the rest of the mainstream media, have failed to inform their readers about what Sheehan really thinks.

The night before Sheehan began her Crawford, Texas, vigil, she spoke at the convention of Veterans for Peace (transcript at told the crowd about a sympathetic e-mailer who warned that her profanity offended "people on the fence."

In reply, she argued that anyone who supports the war should "get your a-- over to Iraq." Everyone against the war should "stand up and speak out. But whatever side you fall on, quit being on the fence . . . we have to get this country off their butts."

In other words, Sheehan's use of inflammatory rhetoric is an important part of her communication strategy. Yet even as the mainstream media has fawned over her campout, it has neutered her message, refusing to print her statements which are intended to get people off the fence.

For example, on Aug. 16, Sheehan held a media conference call during which she declared "The person who killed my son, I have no animosity for that person at all." Yet her statement was reported only in the National Review Online weblog. In an interview with Mark Knoller of CBS News, she explained that the foreigners who have to come to Iraq to battle the U.S. military are "freedom fighters." (Video at the anti-war Web site Conversely, she described last January's vote in Iraq as a "sham election," in her Tuesday entry on her weblog on Michael Moore's Web site ( index.php?id=465).

Sheehan hopes that her strong words will get people off the fence, yet the mainstream media fails to report them. And until Friday's profile in the Rocky Mountain News,the only Denver daily articles to quote Sheehan's provocative words at even modest length were editorial page columns in the News- two by Mike Rosen and one by George Will, for a grand total of four paragraphs' worth of quotes. The Denver Postcontinues to shield its readers almost completely from Sheehan's fiery language and radical policy beliefs, as did a 25-paragraph profile of Sheehan in Friday'sNews.

In an Aug. 16 interview with Chris Matthews on Hardball,Sheehan explained that the invasion of Afghanistan was just as wrong as the invasion of Iraq, and she would be equally angry if her son had died in Afghanistan: "Why do we send in invading armies to march into Afghanistan when we're looking for a select group of people in that country?" Yet the news stories in the Denver papers never mention her belief about the immorality of the Afghanistan war.

Sheehan has explained that the real global terrorist problem is the United States. Speaking at San Francisco State University on April 27, she announced, "The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush." Rebuking people (such as the Posteditors who created the "Portraits of Valor" series) who claim that serving in the military is patriotic, she stated: "I'm going all over this country telling moms: 'This country is not worth dying for.' " She denounced the idea that soldiers should "defend this morally repugnant system we have." (Transcript at )

At the Veterans for Peace rally, Sheehan called George Bush a "lying bastard" and a "maniac." She showed her path to peace: "You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism." (The Crawford "Peace" House, which Sheehan has used to coordinate her protest, has a photo on its Web site depicting "Palestine" as including the entire state of Israel.)

In an Aug. 11 blog conference call, Sheehan stated, "Thank God for the Internet, or we wouldn't know anything, and we would already be a fascist state." Even if one does not entirely agree, the last several weeks do show that that the mainstream media sometimes mislead the public by refusing to print statements that sharply challenge the status quo.

In my previous column, I wrote that The Colorado Statesmanweekly newspaper sometimes publishes late because of financial constraints. In fact, the paper has not been late for at least a year and a half. Publisher Jody Strogoff also says the paper has been profitable annually since 2000. I should have investigated the Statesman'sfinancial status more before writing about it.


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